An appellate court overturned a circuit court ruling earlier this month extending sovereign immunity to the office of the sheriff locally.



The case stems from an incident occurring in September of 2000 in which Barren County Jailer Leland Cox, while employed as a deputy under Sheriff Barney Jones, struck two Kentucky State Police Troopers, seriously injuring them during a joint investigation between the two agencies.



Troopers Jason Cross and Chris Spradlin responded to a request for assistance by the sheriff's office on Sept. 3 in executing an arrest warrant on man who fled police custody.



The troopers were chasing the man on foot in field along Ky. 70 when Cox joined in the pursuit and then attempted to turn his police cruiser in front of the fleeing man in an effort to cut the individual off.



"By pure accident he ended up running over them (the troopers)," said Bowling Green Attorney Lee Huddleston, who represents both troopers, and Cross' wife, Mitzi Cross, in a civil suit against Cox and Jones.



In a 2003 ruling, Barren Circuit Court Judge Phil Patton dismissed negligence claims asserted against Jones on the basis of sovereign immunity.



The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed that decision and remanded the case back to the circuit court for trial.



The three justices issuing an opinion, presiding Judge Jeff Taylor, John Minton Jr. and Daniel Guidugli, ruled Jones, in his official capacity, is not entitled to the shield of sovereign immunity as previously ruled. The ruling limits sovereign immunity in Kentucky.



The justices arrived at their decision through an interpretation of KRS 70.040, which says a sheriff can be held liable for the acts and omissions of his deputies.



The case will likely be brought before a jury based on the reversal of Patton's earlier ruling.



"We're still trying to the get the case tried," Huddleston said, adding his clients are pleased with the opinion rendered by the Appellate Court. He is continuing to pursue a judgment against Cox that would enable his clients to collect from Jones' insurance carrier, Gulf Insurance Company.



The civil suit seeks financial compensation for the troopers' injuries based on vicarious liability and claims that Jones was responsible for determining the competency of his deputies.



Jones declined to comment on the case on advice of his attorney. He is represented by Marc A. Lovell of Bowling Green. Lovell did not return phone messages left Tuesday by the Daily Times.



Contact Stacy Neitzel by emailing sneitzel@glasgowdailytimes.com.

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